P U N J A B    S T O R I E S


CAG report creates stir
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, August 27
The report of Comptroller General of India (CAG) about the misuse of crores of rupees by the Punjab Government has created a stir among political circles. The Opposition Shiromani Akali Dal and its alliance partner the Bharatiya Janata Party have reacted sharply to the finding.

SAD president Parkash Singh Badal today asked Chief Minister Amarinder Singh to come clean on the Rs 934.53-crore “scam in the rural development fund”.

The CAG had submitted a report in Parliament saying that the Punjab Government had misused Rs 934.53 crore collected as rural development cess during 2001-05.

Mr Badal wanted to know where the money was spent. The Akali leader said it was a strong public indictment by the CAG.

Mr Badal said “in its report the CAG strongly observed that its audit found no evidence to indicate that the amount collected as rural development cess was utilised for the specified purpose”.

The Akali leader said his party would hold a probe into the scam and punish the guilty if they came into power in the state.

Also, former Punjab minister and senior BJP leader Balramji Dass Tandon has demanded a judicial inquiry into the matter and asked for a sitting judge of the Supreme Court to head the inquiry.

“Imagine a sum of Rs 350 crore given by the Central Government for drought relief to the state has not been distributed to the beneficiaries”, he said.

Also the Rs 935 crore collected as rural development fund has not been utilised for the purpose it is meant to be.

“It is a serious matter and the indictment by the CAG is very strong.”

He said already the state government had lost the confidence of its people. It first sold out their interest to the liquor mafia and then compromised with the interests of farmers.


Growing economy leaving 85 pc of people untouched: Dr Johl
Sarbjit Dhaliwal
Tribune News Service

Dr S.S. Johl Chandigarh, August 27
The model of planning and economic growth adopted by the National Planning Commission and the Union Government over the years has excluded vast sections of the people of the country from the mainstream of growth.

Making this observation, the eminent agro-economist and planner, Dr S.S. Johl, said the immediate need was to go in for drastic correctives in the country’s planning and growth model. There were sections of society which had gone gaga over the near 8 per cent growth in the country’s economy, but they had failed to understand the situation.

A point worth pondering over is: who is flourishing under such a growth model? Answering the question himself, he said the existing growth of the economy was only confined to 15 per cent of the people of the country while others had, by and large, remained untouched by it because of the faulty model of planning.

In an exclusive interview with The Tribune, Dr Johl said 70 per cent of the people in the rural areas and 15 per cent in the urban areas, who lived in slums, were yet to taste the cake of growth. Reinforcing his point on this issue, Dr Johl said that a survey had shown that only 6 per cent of the students in Punjabi University, Patiala, were from the rural areas at present and in agriculture-related courses only 1.5 per cent of the students were from such areas in Punjab Agricultural University, Ludhiana.

The reason for this was that the education system in the countryside had collapsed. Owing to the poor standard of education, students from the rural areas could not compete with their counterparts in the urban areas, where relatively better schools were available.

Consequently, “students from the rural areas and those living in slums in the urban areas are unable to get admission to courses such as management, information technology, biotechnology and engineering which matter the most in today’s economies”, said Dr Johl.

“Obviously, it is leads to the exclusion of such students, who come from 85 per cent of the population of the country, from jobs where merit and the overall intellect and personality of a student are given all consideration by rapidly growing Indian companies and multinational corporations”, he added. This would not have happened if the growth model had included the upgradation of education in the rural areas over the years.

Dr Johl said he would urge the Deputy Chairman of the Planning Commission, Mr Montek Singh Ahluwalia, to focus extensively on improving the standard of education in the rural areas and making quality education affordable for rural as well as poor students in the urban areas in the 11th Five Year Plan ( 2007-2012), discussions on which had already been initiated by the commission.

Health is another major concern of Dr Johl. The health delivery system had failed in the rural areas. The high level of absenteeism among doctors and the unavailability of medicines and their increasing prices had virtually taken the health services beyond the reach of people in the rural areas and the poor in the urban areas. “ The time has come for providing medical insurance to all people in the rural areas and the poor in the urban areas”, said Dr Johl. He said the government should contribute 80 per cent of the insurance premium and the rest should be paid by the person concerned. “ I will press this point while sending my approach paper on the 11th Five Year Plan to Mr Ahluwalia”, said Dr Johl. He said multispeciality hospitals should be set up in a cluster of blocks in the rural areas. There should be well-equipped ambulances and response teams. Improvement in the medical services in the countryside is the need of the hour”, he added.

Energy is another area of concern. “ I will lay stress on giving top priority to the energy sector in the next plan. Clean energy such as nuclear energy should be promoted. In the absence of adequate energy, the country can face a big crisis”, he said.

There was also need to promote industry in the rural areas. “ In the next plan, every industrialist, who opts to set up an industry in any rural part of the country, should be given exemption from various taxes, duties, etc, for the next 20 years. Employing at least 75 per cent of the youth from the local area, where the industry is to be set up, should be made mandatory”, said Dr Johl. He said under the employment guarantee scheme, the government ensured employment for 100 days. For the remaining 265 days, employment should also be assured by promoting industry in the rural areas by offering huge concessions, he said. Dr Johl, who is a Deputy Chairman of the Punjab Planning Board, said he had already interacted with Mr Ahluwalia on these issues and would be sending “my approach paper” on the 11th plan to him.


Seminar, games mark tercentenary celebrations
Tribune News Service

Bathinda, August 27
Guru Granth Sahib is the only religious scripture in the world which has been accorded the status of Guru, this was stated Dr Harnek Singh, Head, Sri Guru Granth Sahib Studies Department, Punjabi University, Patiala, while presenting his paper at a seminar organised to mark tercentenary celebrations of the compilation of Guru Granth Sahib at Talwandi Sabo today.

Speaking on the occasion he said, “It is the only sacred granth of the world which has been compiled by the Guru himself. Guru Arjan Dev contributed immensely to it, besides incorporating the bani of other Gurus.” He said the most significant element of Guru Granth Sahib is that it contains banis of Sufis and saints too. The bani of Satta and Balwand, of bhaktas like Kabir, Namdev, Sheikh Farid, Surdas, Sain, Jaidev, Trilochan, Dhanna and Parmanand was included in it. He said it is the only granth in the world which is written in accordance with the ragas. It is written in 31 ragas except Japuji and Ragmala.

Dr D.S Dhillon, Professor of History at Punjabi University, Patiala, presented a paper on the historical importance of Guru Granth Sahib. He said, “Along with the highly philosophical and ethical teachings for the whole universe, Guru Granth Sahib provides us the most important and authenticated facts of history to rebuild the medieval Indian history.” It is probably the only sacred scripture of the world which provides information regarding politico-religious and social history not only of Punjab rather of the whole of the northern Indian sub-continent.

Dr Harpal Singh, Professor of Sikh Studies and Head of Religious Studies Department, Punjabi University, Dr Balwant Singh of GNDU and Dr Suba Singh also presented their papers at the seminar.

The Vice-Chancellor of Utkal University of Culture, Bhuvneshwar, delivered the keynote address. SGPC president Mr Avtar Singh Makkar and Akal Takht Jathedar Joginder Singh Vedanti were also present on the occasion.

Meanwhile, Khalsai Khedan also got off to a colourful start as part of tercentenary celebrations today.

Various teams from Punjab and Haryana are participating in kabaddi, football, volleyball and gatka matches during the event.


Mann to take part in celebrations
Tribune News Service

Bathinda, August 27
SAD (Amritsar) President Simranjit Singh Mann today announced that he would participate in the main function of the tercentenary celebrations of Guru Granth Sahib at Talwandi Sabo on August 30. His decision has put the SGPC in a tight spot as an unsavoury incident occurred at Manji Sahib under similar circumstances in Amritsar on July 2.

Talking to The Tribune, Mr Mann said the Akal Takht Jathedar had extended an invitation to him to attend all centenary celebrations on the Operation Bluestar anniversary on June 6. He said the Jathedar had issued a “hukamnama” to all the panthic bodies, irrespective of their political affiliations, to take part in all such events.

When asked as to whether the SGPC had formally invited him, he replied in the negative. On apprehensions regarding the recurrence of the Manji Sahib episode, he said it was for the Akal Takht Jathedar to control the situation and unlike last time “he should not allow Mr Parkash Singh Badal and the SGPC chief to disturb peace.” He said he would participate in the shatabdi samagam with his party workers and would also address the gathering.

Mr Mann would hold gatherings at nine villages in the vicinity of Talwandi Sabo tomorrow to mobilise the party workers for the event.

The SGPC President, Mr Avtar Singh Makkar, said the main function would only witness participation of religious personalities.


Hong Kong Sikhs clarify stand on Guru Granth Sahib
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, August 27
Sikhs residing in Hong Kong have clarified their position over the controversy regarding the installation of Guru Granth Sahib in a Hindu temple at Kowloon.

Reacting to news reports in The Tribune of August 13, the Sikh Sangat in a letter held that it was in no way against Sindhis living in Hong Kong because both communities follow Guru Granth Sahib and believe that all human beings are equal. But Guru Granth Sahib has to be respected according to Sikh rehat maryada.

The Sikh Sangat and Jathedar of Akal Takht, Giani Joginder Singh Vedanti, requested Kowloon Sindhi temple through the Khalsa Diwan Sikh Temple (Gurdwara) Management Committee last month that it could install Guru Granth Sahib by following the Sikh code of conduct.

Even in the past, it was brought to the notice of the Sindhis in the Hindu temple and they were requested a few times by various senior Sikhs, including the former president of the Gurdwara Management Committee to install Guru Granth Sahib in the temple. Moreover, the former president had even offered to make all the arrangements to install Sri Guru Granth Sahib as per Sikh rehat maryada.

At present, the Sikh Sangat held Guru Granth Sahib has been installed next to the idols which Sikhism prohibits. Further, most of the devout, including the priest, do not cover their heads while entering the temple. And at times, chairs are used for sitting in the temple. Further, no rituals of opening and closing of Guru Granth Sahib are followed. And the temple has not employed any Sikh priest to follow rehat maryada.

Further, the sangat also clarified that no dispute was ever reported to the police but certain so-called well-meaning persons were trying to create misunderstandings between Sikhs and Sindhis for their personal gains. Further, the sangat also questioned Mr Gulbir Singh Batra who himself sat in chair in front of Guru Granth Sahib. He has admitted it in front of the Khalsa Diwan Sikh Temple Managements Committee.


Pak parliamentarian brings 10th Guru’s relic
Varinder Walia

Tribune News Service

Amritsar, August 27
Pakistan’s Member of National Assembly (MNA) Rai Aziz Ulah Khan — the ninth direct descendant of Nawab Rai Kala who had given shelter to Guru Gobind Singh in 1705 at Rai Kot (Ludhiana) today brought ‘Ganga Sagar’, from Wagah joint check post, 27 km from here today.

The Sikh Sangat can have glimpse of the unique relic, presented by 10th Sikh Master, Guru Gobind Singh to Rai Kala at Takht Damdama Sahib, for two days from tomorrow, to mark the tercentenary celebrations of compilation of Guru Granth Sahib. The ‘Ganga Sagar’ was received by Mr Sukhbir Singh Badal, general secretary, Shiromani Akali Dal, Mr Navjot Singh Sidhu, Member of Parliament, Mr R.P. Singh, Co-In charge BJP, Punjab, SGPC members and a number of Akali MLAs and MPs at Wagah.

Pleased with the hospitality of Rai Kala, Guru Gobind Singh had presented a “Ganga Sagar” to Rai Khan as a token of love. Rai Aziz Ulah Khan is the custodian of the “Ganga Sagar”. The Pakistan’s MNA has been bringing this unique relic of Guru Gobind Singh on the demand of the SGPC and Sikh Sangat.

In an emotional briefing, Rai Aziz Ulah Khan said that his family had been keeping this great relic of Guru Granth Sahib for the past about three centuries.

Mr Sukhbir Singh Badal honoured the Pakistan’s MNA with a ‘siropa’ at Wagah joint post. Mr R.P. Singh of the BJP thanked Rai Aziz Ulah Khan for bringing Ganga Sagar to mark the tercentenary of celebrations of completion of Guru Granth Sahib. The SGPC had given heavy-budget advertisements, appealing to the Sikh Sangat to reach Wagah border to receive the Ganga Sagar.

Rai Aziz Ulah Khan, told mediapersons that he hoped the people to people relations would improve in coming days.


Rights panel upholds order
Disciplinary action against SI
Maneesh Chhibber
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, August 27
The Punjab State Human Rights Commission (PSHRC) has upheld its own order dated September 10, 2004, by which it had ordered payment of Rs 20,000 as interim compensation to a complainant in a case of police harassment. The money was to be recovered from Sub-Inspector (SI) Paramjit Singh Buttar, one of the accused named in the complaint.

The PSHRC had also ordered that disciplinary action be initiated against the police officer in light of the strictures passed against him by the Additional Sessions Judge, Amritsar, who had held that the investigating officer — SI Buttar — remained unfair throughout the case against one Dr Sanjay Kalsi due to his vengeful attitude.

The PSHRC was acting on a complaint filed by Dr Kalsi’s father Mr Pritam Singh of Amritsar, alleging that his son, Dr Sanjay Kalsi, was being harassed by the police, especially the SI, on one pretext or the other.

The Commission had also asked the Principal Secretary, Home Department, Punjab, to inform the Commission about the action taken against the officer.

Thereafter, the SI filed an application in the PSHRC, seeking review of the September 10, 2004 order.

However, the Commission has disallowed the plea of the cop on the ground that a review of its own order was not possible under law.

Dismissing the plea, the PSHRC held that the counsel for the SI had not been able to point any procedural irregularity in the proceedings of the Commission.

Meanwhile, sources said that despite passage of almost two years since the PSHRC order, no action has been taken against the erring cop, whose name has also figured in another case pertaining to illegal detention of an innocent person. Following the revelation, the SI had been placed under suspension.


Baba’s offer to clean Budda Nullah
Jupinderjit Singh
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, August 27
Baba Balbir Singh Seechewal, a religious leader-cum-environmentalist, has offered to repeat the Kali Bein cleaning phenomenon for Ludhiana’s polluted Budda Nullah.

Taking cognisance of the news report carried in these columns on Friday, Baba Seechewal talking to The Tribune over the phone said that he was pained at the condition of highly polluted water body of the industrial city and had vowed to extend his support to get it back to its pristine glory provided the local residents also come forward and mobilise kar sewaks for the purpose.

He added that even though the nullah had no religious significance, he considered all water bodies sacred and he would leave no stone unturned to get these cleaned.

“If there are some sincere organisations or individuals, who really want this nullah cleaned, I am ready to bring more kar sewaks and get on the job,” said the Baba.

He said he would visit the city soon and take stock of the situation. After that he would chalk out a plan on how to go about the work.

He appealed to the industrialists of the city to grow a little sensitive towards the issue and stop discharging toxins into the nullah. He asked city residents to vote in the coming elections for those leaders who would take up the issue of cleaning the nullah and promise to deal with other environment problems in their manifesto.

“It is a sad state of affairs that while the underground water was being turned into poison no political leader was waking up to the problem. They promise all kind of things on earth but not a single one mentions environmental protection in his manifesto. They should realise that it is the time to wake up. Otherwise the people would not support them.”


Assembly poll as scheduled, says Bhattal
Our Correspondent

Hoshiarpur, August 27
Ms Rajinder Kaur Bhattal, Deputy Chief Minister, Punjab, has said that the state Assembly elections would be held on time for which the Congress was fully prepared. She was talking to media persons at Tanda, 32 km from here, today. She said the party ticket would be allotted only to those persons who were enjoying good reputation and were in a position to win.

Answering a question, she said that an alliance with any political party in the forthcoming elections was to be decided by the Congress high command. The PPCC would only follow the decision. She hoped that on account of the overall performance of the state government, the Congress would definitely come to power again after the elections.

When asked about factionalism within the PPCC, Ms Bhattal said there was no faction within the party. A difference of opinion could be possible among certain leaders, but all were united and were following the decisions of the high command.


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